A friendly break-up? Hmmm...

You can say whatever you like,
As long as we just say goodbye…

This has to be the most amazing break-up song.  None of that ‘woowoowoo, why did you leave me, baayyybeee?’ nonsense that’s typical of R&B, this is a brutally honest description of the end of a relationship that’s gone past its sell by date.  As always with most songs I’ve come to love, I found it completely by accident, through Sheila’s EasyFM midmorning show if you can believe it.  I know, what was I doing listening to MonotonousFM?  What can I say?  Some days I like to listen to the same songs, over and over and over…well, that and the fact that its one of only three stations my decrepit car’s radio can catch at all times, in all parts of the city, but that’s another story.  So there I am, sitting in traffic on Mombasa Road, and along comes this song out of the blue.  What!!!  I tell you, the hairs on the back of my neck stood up, and be knowing they’re lazy buggers those hairs, they don’t stand up for any old idiot, 
all I’m saying is when those hairs stand up I sit up and focus.  Its not just Ms Michelle’s absolutely amazing voice that got me, once I started to listen to what she was saying, especially the chorus… 

Blame it on me,
Say it’s my fault,
Say that I left you outside in the cold with a broken heart,
I really don’t care,
I ain’t crying no more,
Say I’m a liar, a cheater, say anything that you want,
As long as it’s over.

… Haiya!  I was banging on the dashboard like I was at a crusade and she was bloody testifying!  How often is it that you hear a woman singing about leaving, not because her man is a good for nothing, lying, cheating dog of a man, but because she has to leave for her own good?  Rare, isn’t it?  And then came the clincher, Sheila comes on and tells us the song was ‘going out’ to Ms X from Mr Y, ‘he says he’s sorry, he didn’t mean to hurt you’.  That was the saddest request I have ever heard on radio…  

Why are you looking at me like that?  I’m not always an unfeeling cow, dammit, I have feelings too you know, they’re not many but still.  I have a weakness, for lack of a better word, for break-up drama, probably from past experience, no?  

That’s right, this one is about breaking up.  Don’t worry, the break-up in question is not mine, I’m just the unwitting (and somewhat unwilling) conduit. 

I got an email that read in part: “So now, Doctor Alex (said in serious jest), I’d like to find out, preferably on the blog, whether friendship after a relationship is blind faith. I still find myself having petty issues with my ex, just like a normal couple, but then I realize I’m treating her as if we are still dating.  Not that I’d want to date her in the immediate, but losing her friendship is out of question.”  He then went on to not so humbly request that I put thoughts to words, forthwith.  Now, when you get to the point that someone writes to you, asking you to write about break-ups, know that your reputation as whiner-in-chief has been cemented.  Yaani, I’ve bitched so much, for so long, that I am now the go-to girl for matters unhappiness?  Ah well… at least I’m not yet the go-to girl for matters sewer, or am I?  Don’t answer that. 

The question at hand today is this.  Can you remain friends with an ex, and should you?

This friend of mine was trying to convince me that because his break-up was amicable, all his break ups have been amicable he says, then maintaining the friendship should not be a problem.  When I read that I thought to myself, perhaps I should go in search of these amicable women he dates, they could teach me a little something, no?  No.  I have been the woman on the other side of an amicable break up, that’s the one where the man sits you down and tells you just why it’s not working out, not just for him but for you too, he reassures you.  Then he proposes a break/break-up, to give ‘us’ time to figure out what ‘we’ want from this relationship, we’re still friends, right?  Wait, I think those are my issues, no?  Ah well.  Although I’ve never had one, I assume that an amicable break up is one where both parties want out, like a no-fault divorce, and the subsequent lack of bile is simply a reflection of these shared goals.  But the quest to be friends thereafter?  I don’t know about that one, I suspect it’s simply an easy way to make an awkward situation better. 

I’ve said this before (Ex'cuses, ex'cuses...), break ups are rarely (if ever) balanced affairs, usually one half is left holding onto more than the other, right?  Even when there’s no drama, there’s often some residual emotion, be it bitterness, despair, perhaps even a smattering of anger, who knows?  If you genuinely cared about someone then you can’t just turn it off, no matter the circumstances.  No matter how rational we try to be, relationships are first and foremost about emotions, and the end of said relationship is an emotional process, echoes, if you will, of emotions now passed.  If you were deceived, or otherwise mistreated, then it’s the gut wrenching anguish of… everything.  If you were hoping it would work out this time, but it didn’t, for whatever reason, then it’s the disappointment of failure, and the regrets that come with it.  And if you’re the one who woke up one day and realised that you had to leave?  Well then, it’s a curious mix of relief and remorse.  Yes, remorse, we assume that the person walking away does so with ease, but any half serious look will show you that is rarely the case. 

Yes I love you but I really got to lose you,
Freedom is where I want to be,
Yes I’ll probably always love you but I’m moving,
I got to do this for me...

In a society that places a premium on being half of a couple, making that decision to leave takes balls.  You’re telling them, ‘you know what?  This shit isn’t working for me, I’m out!’  Hopefully, you’re saying it with more eloquence, but you get the point, choosing to end a relationship, especially on a seemingly flimsy reason like, ‘it wasn’t going anywhere’, or the tried and tested, ‘we wanted different things’, will earn you a distinct lack of sympathy.  Single types will look at you and shake their heads, muttering, ‘Bitch please!  If I had half of what you had I’d be a happy camper,’ thinking no doubt that you’re just being an immature selfish little twit for choosing to put your needs before someone else’s.  Not here.  Here, I salute you for doing what I could never bring myself to do, instead insisting on hanging on to something that no longer existed.  The first time I walked away was with Disappearing Dude, and because I know how to fuck up even the simplest of tasks, I’m still holding my statue as he drifts in and out of my life at will, and only because I don’t have the balls to tell him that I had the balls to leave his ass.  I think I’ve just taken a slight detour, which should be a different post altogether, no?  Apologies, I was saying, it takes balls to look past the often frustrating need for companionship, at any cost, and put yourself first. 

Thing is, whose interests are you looking out for when you utter the ‘let’s stay friends’ line, are you assuaging your guilty conscience or theirs? 

I’m not sure whether this friend of mine has unresolved issues with his ex, the bit about ‘in the immediate’ got me thinking that perhaps this is more break than break-up, but I’m the idiot still playing possum, so what do I know?  At the beginning I told you I’m an unwilling conduit, unwilling because I clearly struggle to see past my own (perhaps not too good) experiences with break-ups, I don’t think I’m the right person to offer any sort of advice, and if you don’t believe me, take a look at my archive, I have the scars to prove it.  If anyone reading this can throw in their two cents to help this man, and by association his (not so former?) woman, through this episode, I would be very grateful.

Sometimes you can work it out, sometimes you can’t,
Sometimes you’re forced to watch everything fall apart, it’s out of your hands,
Sometimes leaving is easy, sometimes it ain’t,
Sometimes it hurts to know the loving you had was slowly fading away…

I will say this much.  Folks, if you’re hanging around your ex hoping for some great reconciliation, don’t.  Take it from someone with deep seated separation issues and baggage from here to TZ, it never ends well.  What you need to do is simply stay away from each other for a while, months, maybe even years if the split was that acrimonious.  You have to avoid them at least long enough for you to be able to look at them and not feel the need to kiss them, or slap them.  Simply put, as long as you are still getting hysterical over someone’s ass, then you have unfinished business, no exceptions, so stay the fuck away until you calm down and start thinking clearly. 

I know, quoting myself is the height of vanity, but I had to, if only because I’ve run out of things to say at this point, I think I’ve flogged this horse dead and well into the afterlife, and you know what they say about flogging in the afterlife, you might just be the horse…